15 Feb 2022 7:22 AM GMT
The Karnataka High Court on Tuesday set aside the single judge bench order dated on December 14, 2021, by which the court had quashed the notification issued by Karnataka State Law University, by which it was to conduct offline examinations for the students of 2nd and 4th semester of three year LLB course. A division bench of Justice S G Pandit and Justice Anant Ramanath Hegde...
The Karnataka High Court on Tuesday set aside the single judge bench order dated on December 14, 2021, by which the court had quashed the notification issued by Karnataka State Law University, by which it was to conduct offline examinations for the students of 2nd and 4th semester of three year LLB course.
A division bench of Justice S G Pandit and Justice Anant Ramanath Hegde while allowing the intra-court appeal filed by Karnataka State Law University said, "In the best interest of legal education. The following order, writ appeal is allowed. The order dated 14/12/2021 passed in writ petition no 104008/2021, is set aside."
It added, "The University is directed to determine the mode of examination, ie. online, offline, open book exams, test evaluation, as suggested by Bar Council of India, in its press release, dated 10/06/2021 and other relevant documents, within 10 days from the date of web-hoisting of the order."
The court also said, "Consequent to taking decision as directed above the respondent university to take steps forthwith to complete the procedure of examination/evaluation of second and fourth semester, for three years LLB course. The University shall ensure that the time gap prescribed by the rules if any for conducting of examination/evaluation."
The single judge bench of Justice Hemant Chandangoudar in its order dated December 14, 2021 had directed that the students be promoted to the next semester. The Court had said, "University is directed to promote the petitioners to the next semester in the light of the order passed by this Court in W.P.No.14389/2020 disposed of on 08.02.2021. It is made clear that this order is restricted to the students of the three year LLB Course."
It also held that submission of the Bar Council of India that the degrees of the students who have been promoted will not be accepted is untenable.
The court had given the directions while disposing of a petition filed by Mahanatesh and others, students pursuing 2nd and 4th semesters in three years LL.B course in colleges affiliated to KSLU. Following which KSLU had challenged the order in appeal before the division bench.
The court had also observed "Going by data collected by the University which indicate the majority of the students did not possess the laptop/desktop and also do not have access to internet facilities, it is implied that effective education was not imparted to the petitioners as well as majority of the students," the Bench observed adding that this is the most important factor to be considered while taking a decision to conduct examinations. It had added that conducting exams without properly imparting classes would be prejudicial to the interest of the petitioners and they cannot suffer for no fault of theirs.
The court had also taken into consideration that UGC issued guidelines on the examinations in view of the COVID-19 pandemic in July, 2021 wherein the examinations for intermediate semester/year students was dispensed with and students were promoted to the next semester based on the internal evaluation and previous semesters as suggested in 2020 guidelines. However, the guidelines regarding the conducting of examinations were subject to advisories/directives to be issued by the other statutory bodies including Bar Council of India.
Further, the Bar Council of India after constituting an Expert Committee and after obtaining its opinion decided to conduct examinations for intermediate and final year students. However the respective Universities were given free hand to determine mode of examination through online/Offline/Blended/Online Open Book Exam (OBE)/Assignment Based Evaluation (ABE)/Research papers. Pursuant to the advisory issued by the Bar Council of India, the respondent – University took a decision to conduct examinations for all the semesters including final semester.
The court had observed that, "The respondent – University having been given free hand to determine the mode of examination was under an obligation to take into account all the relevant factors for conducting examinations in view of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic."
On going through the expert committee report proceedings of the University, the Court said, "An analysis of the proceedings indicates that the Expert Committee resolved to conduct examinations through offline mode only, by collecting data from the respective Law Colleges....The Committee was required to consider not only the feasibility to conduct examinations, but also was required to determine the other mode of examinations, that is, open book exam and assignment based evaluation/research paper. However, the Committee has not taken into account, whether effective education was imparted to the students including the petitioners which is probably the most important relevant factor. The Committee without taking into account the relevant factor has resolved to conduct examinations."
Then the bench had observed that the duration of each semester is for a period of four months. Admittedly, the classes for respective semesters were conducted only for three months.
"The Petitioners in paras 3 to 5 of the memorandum of writ petition have specifically pleaded that the effective education was not imparted. Having regard to the fact that the classes through online were alleged to have been conducted for a period of three months, it is implied that the petitioners did not have access to the library which is a storehouse of knowledge and the library helps the petitioners to perform better during examination by reading various books," the Court said in its order.
Stating that other University students were exempted from appearing in the examinations and were promoted to the next semester based on previous performance, the court said, "Though the question of discrimination can be only amongst the equals as held by the Division Bench of this Court in WA No.1245/2021. However, the University which has got the domain to choose the mode of conducting examinations under Section 9 and 10 of the KSLU Act and also to dispense with conducting examination in view of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic was required to apply its mind judiciously before taking a call to conduct examinations through offline mode."
Accordingly, it held, "The decision taken by the University without taking into account the relevant factors for conducting examinations through offline mode is arbitrary having regard to the fact that effective education was not imparted to the petitioners which is the basic requirement for petitioners to write the examination."
It had concluded by saying that, "The petitioners who are not prepared for no fault of theirs cannot be compelled to appear in the examinations with fear in their mind that they would fail in the examinations."
Case Title: Karnataka State Law University v. Mahantesh
Case No: WA 100319/2021
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Kar) 48
Date of order: February 15, 2022
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